1.8) The Battle
‘Sphere and Loathing’
The Mission: Rendezvous with the Ferengi Alliance at system Xendi Sabu.
Planets visited: None.
Future History: Nine years previously (2355) in star system Maxia Zeta, the USS Stargazer under Captain Picard encountered an unknown alien ship that fired upon them without provocation. Picard destroyed the alien ship, but not before the Stargazer was crippled. Leaving it to explode, the crew abandoned ship and spent weeks drifting in life pods.
Turns out the ship was Ferengi, and was under the command of Daimon Bok’s son. The Ferengi now call the incident the Battle of Maxia. Somehow the Stargazer survived, and came into Bok’s possession.
Oh, and in the 24th century they now longer have colds or headaches. Lucky bastards.
Alien Life Forms: The Ferengi are back. This time they actually get some characterisation beyond the previous ‘squeaky rodents meets Yankee traders’ approach. Daimon Bok has come up with a scheme to punish Picard for the death of his son, offering him the Stargazer as a gift in order to draw him in. His first officer, Kazago, and a third Ferengi crewman, Rata, are horrified that he is not offering to sell the ship back to him. Kazago displays loyalty to his captain, but removes him from command when it becomes clear his behaviour is motivated solely by revenge, not profit. Troi seems to have no trouble sensing the Ferengis’ emotions, not that it helps anyone much.
The Picard Manoeuvre: Ah, well. We learn that Picard commanded another starship nine years ago, although where he has been posted during the period before he took command of the Enterprise is not revealed. We learn the nature of the now legendary Picard Manoeuvre: when faced with the Ferengi Marauder at Maxia, and deducing it had only light-speed sensors, he jumped his ship to warp for a brief moment, causing it to appear at two places on the Ferengi sensors. He then blasted them from behind. (We also see plenty of the other Picard Manoeuvre, where he tugs his tunic down.) Picard is beset with headaches but soldiers on through his mission to the Ferengi (what a trooper - a headache gets you off work in the 24th century). This is all down to the Thought Maker, Bok’s weapon, which eventually causes him to relive the memories of the attack at Maxia when on the Stargazer bridge.
|Why didn't I stick with Shakespeare?|
Number One: Intensely loyal to Picard by now. He refuses to believe that his captain would attack an unidentified ship unless in defence, whatever the newly recovered Stargazer log claims. He rightly believes that Bok has forged it, and succeeds in talking Picard out of his technologically induced hallucination. Riker develops a decent rapport with fellow first officer Kazago.
Future Treknology: Bok has got hold of a rare and dangerous Thought Maker. Completely illegal in the Ferengi Alliance, such a machine is capable of altering the minds of humanoid life forms. A Thought Maker consists of two glowing pink and silver spheres, a large control unit and a smaller relay unit. The relay needs to be near the intended victim to fully take him over, but can affect him from a distance of millions of kilometres, producing headaches, dreams and hallucinations. At full influence, it makes its victim extremely susceptible to suggestion.
Space Bilge/Funny Bits: There’s some clunky dialogue here, particularly Worf’s revelation that Picard brought a “fairly heavy chest” onto the Enterprise from the Stargazer when they’re trying to work out how something may be affecting him. Kazago actually says “I’m all ears.” Sometimes the obvious ones are the best.
Verdict: A good episode, highlighting the developing relationship between Picard and Riker, exploring the Captain’s past and using the Ferengi far more effectively than in their debut. It’s a shame that this follows on so soon from another episode in which Picard is influenced and acting out of character, but that’s not this episode’s fault. An effective story.
The Mission: Rush to the aid of the devastated Quadra Sigma colony.
Planets visited: Quadra Sigma III: A seismically unstable planet in the Sigma 3 system, home to a Federation colony. The colony has a population of only 504, and that’s before it get buried under rubble due to a methane explosion.
Q’s planet: Q sends his chosen game-players to a desolate alien world with twin moons and a green sky. The planet could feasibly be anywhere in the universe, assuming it even exists in reality and wasn’t simply created by Q.
Alien Life Forms:
The Q: Intrigued by humanity following their ‘trial,’ the Q have sent Q (this is already getting confusing) to test the Enterprise crew once again. This time, Q is to offer the powers of the Q to a human being, seemingly in order to test their response to the situation. It seems the Q are concerned that humanity may one day evolve into beings even greater than they. “Change is at the heart of what you are,” says Q. He also refers to his home realm, the Q Continuum, for the first time, and once again uses the great big cage in space from ‘Encounter at Farpoint.’ Super-Riker uses it too, so perhaps each Q gets it as part of some handy Q-kit. When Riker tells him to shove off and take his powers with him, Q is wrenched away by the rest of his kind with all sorts of wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Aldebaran serpent: A strange creature, the form of which Q takes when he first appears on the bridge (he later turns into his usual John de Lance self, if a bit plumper than we usually see him). The Aldebaran serpent appears as a glowing ball of energy, from which spring three cobra-like heads.
Monster soldiers: Q populates his game planet with hideous “animal things,” bestial humanoids in Napoleonic uniforms and armed with antique rifles that shoot laser beams.
The Picard Manoeuvre: For once, Picard isn’t the main focus of Q’s visit, although they do still have a good old confrontation. Q mocks him mercilessly, but makes the mistake of getting into a Shakespeare-quoting contest with the good captain. There’s no way anyone can win one of those against Patrick Stewart. Picard is in full-on wise old man mode this episode, dispensing wisdom to Riker and Tasha.
Number One: No, this time it’s Riker who bears the brunt of Q’s interest. Apparently, the Q found him interesting during their last encounter, although it’s hard to see why, he didn’t exactly do much on that mission. When given the power of the Q, Riker wastes no time saving his fellows from death, before swearing to Picard that he will never use his powers so that he may continue life aboard the ship. Naturally, he’s tempted to break his promise, what with their getting to Quadra Sigma late and having to dig up the body of a child that he’s forbidden to save “by a promise.” He goes a bit power mad after this, getting cocky, calling Picard by his first name (Good Lord! The impropriety!) and calling the senior staff for a meeting on the bridge. He offers them all their fondest desires, which they all refuse, and this leads him to make the decision to give up his powers.
|Best bit of the episode.|
Elementary, My Dear Data: He’s super strong, even showing up Worf during the rock lifting efforts on Quadra Sigma. When Riker offers to make him human, he immediately stops him from doing so, the only one given an offer who doesn’t seem even slightly tempted.
The Boy: The monster men kill Wesley! Then Riker brings him back to life. I may never forgive him. Riker offers Wesley adulthood, turning him into an adult version who looks absolutely nothing like Wil Wheaton. He says that he and Wes have had lots of long talks. Wow, they must have been a riot.
And the rest: Tasha gets a lot of focus in this episode. Once again, we get some teeth-gratingly trite “strong female” characterisation, in which she chastises herself for “cryink” when she’s left to die in Q’s penalty box. (“A penalty box?” “Yes a penalty box.” “A PENALTY BOX?” etc.) Geordi is offered site by Super-Riker, and gives it up, which really is pretty bizarre (then again, his visor does give him superhuman vision, so maybe he prefers it that way). Worf is properly over the top again, leaping all over the place. Q calls him Microbrain, so he’s really not all that witty. All Dr. Crusher gets to do is look stern at people.
Missing: It’s around this point that the sheer number of regular characters becomes a problem for the writers, and certain characters are dropped for whole episodes with little or no explanation. Troi isn’t in this one, which is odd; you’d think, with all Riker’s going through, that having a counsellor onboard with whom he has a special relationship would actually be an advantage for once.
Sexy Trek: Tasha fancies Picard - “Oh, if you weren’t Captain…” - which is a bit out of the blue. Then again, Geordi seems to bat for both sides this episode, telling Tasha that she’s beautiful and adult-Wesley that he’s “looking good.” Super-Riker gives Worf a dirty Klingon bitch as his present, and they go through a bit of snarling, violent Klingon foreplay before Worf declares that he has no place in his life for sex anymore. What, so we’re supposed to believe that Worf is some kind of celibate Starfleet monk? Seems unlikely, however, “fragile” he finds human women.
Verdict: Pretty poor. John de Lancie livens up any episode he’s in, but the Q concept is already running out of steam. They’ll come up with more interesting uses for the character in future, but here he simply provides an extremely predictable story about the temptation of power. Why he chose to give the power of the Q to Riker is never explained - Q episodes tend to focus on Picard. Maybe he just thought it was funnier.